It could be a new real estate sell for one of Canberra's most denigrated suburbs: "Charnwood - home of the carers; not the public servants''.
The Canberra Times' Markus Mannheim recently took a good look at Census data to reveal where various professions live in the national capital, finding public servants congregated in four suburbs: Campbell, Kingston, Barton and Turner.
He found very few public servants lived in Charnwood, that north-western Belconnen suburb that has for so long been a byword for lack of privilege and community disconnection, no matter how far the stereotype sits from the truth.
What, in fact, the cold, hard statistics actually revealed is that Charnwood has a warm, beating heart.
Charnwood, according to the Census data, is one of Canberra's most caring suburbs. And it comes as no surprise to those who live there.
The suburb had a large share of carers (childcare, aged care and personal care) and only a few public servants. (The public sector accounts for 30.5 per cent of the workforce in Charnwood, one of the lowest in the ACT, and less than half of that in Campbell where the public sector accounts for 71.8 per cent of the workforce.)
When combining all the "caring" jobs (paid and unpaid), these are the top three caring suburbs in the ACT (excluding those with fewer than 100 workers):
- Hall: 1.7 x as many carers as Canberra generally
- Spence: 1.7
- Charnwood: 1.6
It is a particularly relevant finding for Charnwood, putting a different light on what is often stereotyped as a blighted suburb.
Paramedic Bryan Woodford says people have got it wrong about Charnwood. He moved there from Victoria five years ago, initially attracted by the lower rents. He and wife Amy then decided to buy in Charnwood, moving into their house two months ago with sons Ethan, six, and Hayden, four.
"I deal with the whole community, all across the ACT. I go to instances of violent crime and drug use, all the rest of it, and Charnwood definitely gets a bad rap. These issues happen everywhere,'' Mr Woodford said.
House prices are much lower in Charnwood than those suburbs overflowing with public servants. The median non-unit property price in Charnwood is $430,000 so far this year, compared with $1.145 million in Campbell.
Mr Woodford and his family might have been attracted by the cheaper housing in Charnwood initially but they stayed because of the community spirit.
"We've only been here two months [in the new house] and when we rocked up, people were giving us presents and welcome-to-the-street cards appeared in our letterbox. I think everyone in our street made themselves known to us,'' he said.
Mr Woodford has been a paramedic for five years.
"I think I was always attracted to the adrenalin of the job but also because it was a job where you could give someone a helping hand,'' he said.
Liberal Member for Ginninderra Elizabeth Kikkert was not surprised by the Census data showing a high number of carers in Charnwood.
"I am very proud of Charnwood residents and their contribution to Canberra,'' she said.
"I lived in Charnwood for 10 years and during that time I witnessed their caring nature extending to their profession, but also to their neighbours.
"Every week, my neighbour would take out my bin and two other households’ bins to the front for their weekly collection. We lived there for 10 years and I could count on one hand the amount of time I took my bins out. The rest of the time, my caring neighbour beat me to it.''
Elizabeth Hickey is a support co-ordinator who specialises in NDIS cases. She has lived in Charnwood with her husband Les for 11 years. They actually live in Mr Hickey's family home, meaning he has lived all of his life in Charnwood, save for six years when the family lived in Queanbeyan. They have two sons - Freddy, 12, and Anthony, 10 - and feel a part of the Charnwood community, especially through their involvement with the local Scouts.
"It's a nice place to live,'' she said. "The kids can play in the park, they can walk to school without crossing roads. And we're able to own our home.''
Mrs Hickey laughs when she says the family does like to say they live in "Charnwood Heights''.
"We just tell people it's a nice people to live. We're involved with Scouts and the church. And it is a close-knit community here,'' she said.
Mrs Hickey has recently started her own business meaning she can work part-time. She said the cheaper costs of housing in Charnwood enabled her to stay at home when the boys were younger and to study for a degree in community services via distance education.
"That was because we lived in Charnwood and we could afford to keep the house over our head while I was studying,'' she said.
Mrs Hickey said it was a simple fact that a lot of caring professions were not paid well.
"In all reality, I'm still in the sector because I work for myself. Otherwise, I would have to be working full-time,'' she said.
"We're just about to send our eldest to high school and he'll be going to the Catholic high school so our costs are going up. And to meet those costs I would have to be working full-time if I was still employed in the caring profession. But, in all honestly, I probably would be anyway because I like to help people solve problems.''
The charity Canberra City Care is based in Charnwood, helping people in financial hardship. Its operations manager Danielle Bate said she too was not surprised there were a lot of workers in the caring professions in Charnwood.
"There are a lot of hard-working people in this suburb,'' Ms Bate said. "And many of them probably can't afford to live in other parts of Canberra.''
Michael Pilbrow, who helped start the Charny Carny community festival and the National Health Co-op in Charnwood, summed up the suburb up succinctly: "It's affordable, awesome and a great community''.